ISLAMABAD  -   The opposition on Thursday staged a protest walkout from the Senate against what it said Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government’s governing the country through presidential ordinances.

PPP parliamentary leader Senator Sherry Rehman raised the issue soon after the government laid the Elections (Amendment) Ordinance 2018 before the house.

She questioned its legality and said that what was the urgency to promulgate the ordinance when the house was in session? She added the government should have introduced a bill in the either house of the parliament.

She referred to Prime Minister Imran Khan’s earlier remarks that country will be governed through ordinances and asked why the government wanted to govern the country through presidential ordinances.

Leader of the House in the Senate Syed Shibli Faraz justified promulgation of the ordinance and remarked that it had been promulgated on January 2 when the parliament was not in session. He criticised the opposition and said it should point out if some illegality had been committed. He insisted that the presidential ordinance was not an unconstitutional instrument.

Soon after his brief remarks, the opposition staged a walkout from the house following which quorum was pointed out.

After a count, the chair did not find the house in quorum and the proceedings were suspended for thirty minutes.

Earlier, PPP Senator Mian Raza Rabbani on a point of order said that the government through a newly-promulgated Pakistan Medical and Dental Council Ordinance has withdrawn representation of both the houses of the parliament in the council.

“The government has not only breached my privilege but also of the house,” he added.

He said that even the ordinance that was promulgated on January 9 has not been laid in any house of the parliament despite the fact both houses were in session. “By doing this, the government wilfully has violated Article 89 of the Constitution,” he added. He said that the opposition would move a disapproval resolution in the house if the ordinance was not laid before the parliament. In addition, he said, the government was not laying this ordinance before the house because it has not been approved by the Council of Common Interests (CCI). “The ordinance is unconstitutional because it has not been approved by CCI,” he said and added: “We will not allow constitution to be circumvented and infringe upon the provincial rights.” The chair directed the government to lay the ordinance before the house as it was his ruling that any ordinance should be laid on the first day of the session.

Following remarks of Rabbani, State Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Mohammad Khan said that the impression being created by some political circles was wrong that PTI government was going to roll back 18th Amendment. “We have never discussed this plan in any cabinet, official meeting or party meeting,” he said adding there was nothing in the pipeline in this connection. He said there is always some room to amend the law for its betterment but the government had no plan to roll back this landmark amendment.

Speaking on a calling attention notice about country’s ever-increasing debt to an all-time high, denoting drastic increase from June 2018 figures, Sherry Rehman criticised the government for its bad economic policies.

“Our external and domestic debt has risen up to Rs36 billion, which was previously Rs10 billion, and it is piling up on a daily basis,” she said and added: “Pakistan’s domestic debt has risen by 5.5 per cent since June 2018 while external debt has risen by 17 per cent.” Using the word Tabdeeli Sarkar for PTI government, she said debts have raised three to four times in the seven months of this government. “This is a very scaring thing,” she said adding that the country could not be run on debts. She said that the government has increased its debts to Rs1,500 billion more only through devaluation of rupees. “What is your plan,” she said. She concluded that ship of Pakistan was drifting in the deep dark and dangerous sea and they have to get out of that.

State Minister for Revenue Hammad Azhar in response to the Rehman said their domestic and external loans in the current years were less for the same period taken in the corresponding year. He said that the government inherited ailing economy and tough decisions were being taken to improve it. He criticised the last PML government saying it overstated revenues in their six budgets. “If PTI government had not devalued rupee, it would have to take foreign loans to defend overvalue currency,” he said. He hoped that the government will bring a balance in his budget books.

Policy statement on US-Taliban Talks: Chairman Senate Sadiq Sanjrani sought a policy statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs today (Friday) on the ongoing US-Taliban talks. Former Chairman Senate Mian Raza Rabbani raised the issue said the US-Taliban dialogue was at an advanced stage and now Taliban had also released a statement saying that they and US together were finalising rough modalities to reach a reconciliation deal.

He regretted that it was only the parliament that didn’t know a single word about this reconciliation process and had been kept in the dark. Foreign Office earlier said that Pakistan was playing the role of facilitator in this dialogue.

Rabbani said if the foreign minister was not available some other minister should come in the house and take it into confidence. He said it was an important issue dealing with the national and regional security.